06 March 2007

Vancouver-Buffalo final looming?

no not a prediction. yet. I'm not convinced of Vancouver. Although they are the hottest teams of late in their respective conferences.

The Western Conference's hottest teams have been, for the most part, the best teams - creating a separation that pretty much defines the playoff eight at this point. No team has been more hot than the Vancouver Canucks, and despite fine play by the Sedin brothers, this team is Roberto Luongo. With only 173 goals scored this year (better than only four teams) they have a shockingly small amount of room for error. Each of their last eight wins have been by one goal (including two shootout victories). Another strong MVP case. I think it's time for a quick MVP front-runner column (even though I don't put any stock at all in who wins the end-of-season awards, I don't think it's too hypocritical to engage in debate about who I think the winners should be.)

In the East, the hottest teams are Buffalo and Ottawa - not unexpected due to their talent - but also surprisingly on the list are the Florida Panthers, who has only one regulation loss in their last ten games and suddenly sit only six points out of a playoff spot. The bad part is that they'll have to climb over five teams to get there, but with only the Boston Bruins making any serious noise in that constantly-fluctuating 8-12 range, hope isn't completely lost in Florida.

Back to the Sabres, who are redefining the concept of organizational depth: since the Sabres lost second-leading scorer Maxim Afinogenov and Paul Gaustad for at least the regular season in a game last month against Edmonton, they have gone 6-1-1 (including said Oilers game), while averaging over five goals per game in their last seven.

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